By experimentally relocating migratory white-crowned sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys gambelii) from their breeding area in the Canadian Northwest Territories to regions at and around the magnetic North Pole, researchers have gained new insight into how birds navigate in the high Arctic. In particular, the findings aid our understanding of how birds might determine longitudinal information--a challenging task, especially at the earths poles.
The work is reported in Current Biology by Susanne Åkesson and colleagues at Lund University in Sweden.
Migratory birds navigating over long distances can determine their latitude on the basis of geomagnetic and celestial information, but longitudinal position is much more difficult to determine. In the new work, researchers investigated whether birds can define their longitude after physical displacements in the high Arctic, where the geomagnetic field lines are steep and the midnight sun makes star navigation impossible for much of the summer.
Heidi Hardman | EurekAlert!
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